The growing tomato business at Kokami market in Katsina State is providing job opportunities for many youths from Kano, Kaduna and Katsina states, Daily Trust on Sunday gathered.
Merchants from all over the country patronize the market every Thursday from the month of December, where they purchase fresh and dried tomatoes in large quantities.
Sani Haladu, a labourer who hails from Tudun Wada in Kano State, said they were 15 in their team and they went to Katsina purposely to engage in slicing and sun-drying of tomato.
“We are here every year after we are through with Kadawa in Kano State, and what we specialise in is slicing and sun-drying tomatoes for sale. We charge N150 per big basket or N200 if the tomato fruits are small,” he said.
Sani further said that everything being equal he could slice about 10 baskets of tomatoes a day and earn about N1,500.
He added that they spend two to three months in the market, especially when there is a glut of fresh tomatoes in the market.
Another labourer from Badume of Kano State, Hussaini Iliya, said some of them were into selection and packaging of fresh tomatoes for transportation to other states.
“Not all of us are into slicing and sun-drying of tomatoes; we also sort and package the fresh ones in big baskets and there are others who are into loading the packages in trucks,” said Hussaini Iliya.
He also said they charge N150 per basket while the dealers provide them with papers and threads for the packaging.
When asked about their accommodation and feeding, Hussaini said most of them settled in shanties made of thatches within the market while others formed groups and rent rooms in Kokami and other nearby villages.
A dried tomatoes dealer in the market, Ibrahim Murtala Danja, told tour correspondent that irrespective of the price of fresh tomatoes, they must sun-dry it to be sold later.
“Because there is no mechanism in place for conserving fresh tomatoes, there is always a period that it is scarce in the market; this paves way for the business of dry tomatoes and it has become the main source of livelihood for many people,” he said.
Ibrahim Murtala, a trader, added that in June last year the price of dried tomatoes rose up to N30,000 per 100kg bag and a measure (tiya) was sold at N1,000, but now the bag costs only N12,000 and a measure is N300.
He expressed optimism that when the state government completes its tomatoes processing plant in the market, there would be a paradigm shift in tomatoes business in the area.
“We are anxiously waiting for the takeoff of the processing plant as it will boost tomatoes production in the area as well as provide job opportunities for youths along the produce value chain,” he said.
Daily Trust on Sunday discovered that besides the large number of butchers and food vendors in the market, a wide range of businesses have sprung up such as viewing centres, barbers’ shops and petty traders’ stands.